HANAKAPIAI – More than 60 hikers were airlifted from the Kalalau Valley Wednesday after multiple streams became impassible.
One male hiker suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was flown to Princeville Airport, where awaiting medics transported him to Wilcox Memorial Hospital, according to the county.
The rescue by the Kauai Fire Department came a couple of days after around 10 people were stranded on the Kalalau Trail because heavy rain earlier this week made the Hanakapiai Stream too swollen to cross. The hikers successfully crossed the stream on Tuesday after water levels receded, but the department was notified Wednesday that more hikers were stranded and may have been in the valley for several days with dwindling supplies that made waiting out the conditions hazardous.
Sean Rollnick of Alaska said he was camping at the base of Red Hill bluff and opted for the ride out of the park via chopper. He watched from the bluff as a crowd of hikers was picked up at the beach area until he approached the helicopter and was told the storm had trapped many people with high river levels, prompting him to climb aboard.
“It was windy and rainy but we were in a decently tarped area and had firewood,” he said at Kee Beach after the airlift. “We did a pretty good job staying dry but could have prepped a little better.”
The total number of stranded hikers grew to 62 by Wednesday afternoon.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources posted park closure signs at the Kalalau trailhead on Monday morning due to the hazardous weather conditions.
A DLNR attendant was posted at the trailhead to warn hikers of the park closure and potential hazards, but, according to DLNR, several hikers ignored the warning and continued on.
Chris and Byron Eaton were at the Kalalau trailhead Wednesday where the signs were posted. Chris said the two were just checking out the end of the road but would not have attempted the trail.
In April, 121 hikers had to be rescued from Hanakapiai after heavy rain left them stranded on the stream’s far bank. The county called it the largest rescue operation in recent memory and the two-day rescue effort cost $3,560.68.
The state park will reopen as conditions improve.